Just to help you get to know my future country of service a bit better, here’s a bit of info about SA.
Population: about 49,991,300 million people (2010 estimate)
There are 11 official languages, plus several unofficial languages. They are: Afrikaans, English, Ndebel, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. Don’t worry, I will not need to learn them all. Most likely I will end up learning some Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, or Tsonga, which are the more popular languages in the areas I may end up. I could end up in the provinces of Limpopo, Northern Cape, or Northwest.
About 80% of South Africans are Christians, and religion is an important part of their life. It is a more conservative society, and I am told that people will ask whether I am married and have kids, because it is pretty much expected in rural SA. Oh boy. 🙂
Since SA is below the equator, the seasons are switched. This means that July is in the dead of winter, while January enjoys the middle of summer. Luckily, it seems like SA will be warmer than Iowa in the winter. Average temps during the winter months range from the mid 40s-60s, while average summer temps hover around the 70s and 80s. SA is also drier than Iowa.
There are 3 capitals: Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), and Cape Town (legislative). However, Johannesburg is the largest city. As you can tell from the capitals, SA has a 3 branch parliamentary government.
SA is a recent history of racial segregation, called apartheid, which ended officially in 1994. However, the country is still overcoming this legacy. Instead of trying to explain the history apartheid, I will lead you here if you are interested: http://www.africanaencyclopedia.com/apartheid/apartheid.html
A bit more technical: SA has a Gini coefficient of 57.8, which is high. The Gini coefficient indicates economic equality. A score of 0 means complete equality, and 1 means vast inequality. Therefore, SA is a large divide between the rich and the poor.
I’m sure I will stumble upon a lot more interesting info on SA, but I think this is sufficient for now.